JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Monday said it’s “time for a fresh start” and called for unity as he addressed the Legislature for the first time since he took office following Eric Greitens’ resignation amid allegations of personal and political misconduct.
Parson ascended to the state’s top executive office after Greitens stepped down in the face of possible impeachment from the Legislature. Parson said it’s a “difficult time” for Missouri but promised change.
“Today is a time for a fresh start for our state,” Parson said, telling family, officials and other supporters gathered in the House that “we must work together for a better Missouri.”
Parson, 62, is taking a markedly different tone compared to his predecessor — a self-described political outsider who didn’t shy away from conflict and often fought with members of his own party.
Greitens at times criticized lawmakers as “career politicians” and compared them to third-graders. In contrast, Parson praised lawmakers Monday, touting bills passed by the Republican-led Legislature this year and the “care, prudence, and professionalism” he said lawmakers demonstrated during a House investigation of Greitens.
In a rare move, Parson before his speech met with Missouri’s congressional delegation, as well as both Republican and Democratic state lawmakers, to discuss issues including infrastructure and the opioid crisis.
Stepping out of Parson’s office a little before noon, several federal lawmakers said their relationship with the current governor was already better than the one they had with Greitens.
The praise was particularly notable coming from Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is facing Attorney General Josh Hawley and several other GOP challengers in her bid for re-election.
“I thought it was really refreshing that he reached out,” McCaskill said, referring to Parson. Conversely, McCaskill said she couldn’t specifically recall a single conversation she ever had with Greitens, who was known for frequently clashing with lawmakers of both parties.
“This governor appears that he wants to work with everybody instead of fight everybody,” McCaskill said.
GOP Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Blaine Luetkemeyer said they couldn’t recall a similar gathering happening in years.
“We’re already one meeting ahead of both of the previous two governors,” Luetkemeyer said, referring to Greitens and his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
Hartzler said her communication with Greitens had been minimal, while a long history of working with Parson has made outreach much easier.
“I can text him, and he will text back quickly,” Hartzler said.
That praise has been echoed by many state lawmakers in recent weeks, due partially to their familiarity with the new governor. Unlike Greitens, Parson has had a long history working in public service, most recently as the state’s lieutenant governor. He also served as a state lawmaker for more than a decade.
“For 14 years I’ve watched my friend and colleague, Mike Parson, proudly and effectively serve the state of Missouri,” Republican Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said in a statement after Parson’s speech. “There is no one more prepared to take on this challenge.”
House Democratic Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty said Parson has reached out to both sides of the aisle and the Kansas City and St. Louis mayors, but she said she wanted to hear more from him about his policy priorities.
Lawmakers on Monday also ended a special legislative session they called to consider potential impeachment of Greitens. Figures provided to The Associated Press show a special House investigatory committee spent more than $25,000 on court reporters, subpoena service and supplies while investigating the former governor. Those figures do not include any additional costs accrued Monday.